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Shop assistant refused to serve EDL

By James Mills
23 September 2013

 

 

 

When I saw the video of the Selfridges shop assistant refusing to serve the EDL’s Tommy Robinson my heart rose.

Because whenever we hear about the labour market these days there is a dominant narrative that one should be happy with their lot. In essence, if you have a job, then count yourself lucky.

There is an element of truth to this when there are around two and half million people unemployed. But it means the ethics of the workplace are ignored and replaced with cold managerial speak. Workers are turned into drones, not workers. It is how we arrive at workplace poverty, zero hour contracts; and a Britain where the increase in the latter is viewed as success.

This young man could have just kept his head down and said nothing. But by his actions, he has displayed that no matter where one works you have a social responsibility.

I was a shop assistant too, for a well known, now bankrupt, off-license for around six years. The job was vital to me paying my rent and working my way through university. I could work up to 35-40 hours a week; and I know without that job I probably would not have graduated university. However, on several occasions I risked my job (and potentially my degree).

We were allowed to refuse customers who were drunk, violent, or if we obviously believed they were underage or supplying underage people. But on several occasions I refused to serve people for racist, sexist language and even bad manners. And I banned those customers until they apologised.

On one occasion someone threw their money on the counter when buying chewing gum, so I decided to throw the chewing gum and their change directly at them.

There are things more important than one’s personal ambitions and needs. This is an ethic that sadly is ignored when we talk about employment these days; and is seeping away from the workplace.

This week sees the launch of a new documentary, Nae Pasaran, recognising how 40 years ago shop floor workers at an aircraft engine repair factory in East Kilbride refused to work on plane engines of fascist dictator General Pinochet, after he seized power in a coup.

It is sadly something which seems unimaginable these days, until I saw that video.

Not only did these workers, like this shop assistant, refuse to supply their labour to the benefit of fascists, but they had an intrinsic knowledge that a workplace is not an inanimate location; it is somewhere from which we all have a responsibility to our work colleagues, but also to our communities.

Originally published by Liberal Conspiracy 

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